England has never been one to shine at international level despite the immense talents they have in their squad. Ever since winning the World Cup title in 1966, they have gotten downhill, with their closest a 4th place finish in 1990. For the past decades, generations of England captains and footballers alike have been trying to emulate the success in the 1966. Despite the hopes given to English fans over the years, they have been unable to achieve much success in the World Cup. The latest FIFA World Cup 2014 saw England knocked out in the group stages.
To put it simply, England will continue to fail at international level unless they allow the young players to develop away from the limelight.
England has gone to the World Cup many times and every time they came back, they haven’t improved from the experience. Neither have they learnt from it.
Player development in England is good up to around 16 or 17 years of age. Then between 17 to 21, there’s where England needs to work on. The development of players stops and all of a sudden, they get obsessed with results and the top level. In a flash, players change from being youngsters who are developing in the game into being the best in the world and worth millions after a few good performances. A prime example would be Luke Shaw who was signed by Manchester United at a world record fee of £30 million for a teenager from Southampton, despite being only 18 years old.
Then, after a few bad performances, they are suddenly rubbish and getting vilified in the press. It is unfair to put that much pressure on such young players and it’s naïve to believe that young players under such tremendous pressure can thrive and fulfil their potential.
Just look at the current media coverage on Raheem Sterling. He is only 19, a top talent with loads of potential, but just after a season of solid performances for Liverpool and England, he is now seen as the man that can change England’s fortunes. Imagine the massive weights on his shoulders.
Switzerland, on the other hand, have a group of excellent young players like Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, who have been allowed to focus on honing their skills rather than being hailed as the saviour of their nation. This has allowed Switzerland to consistently punch above their weight considering the size of the nation.
While the golden generation of England players – David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Sol Campbell – were extremely good players individually, they didn’t quite gel as a team.
It’s time for Roy Hodgson to build a team of players that are able to work together collectively without, as yet, any of the huge reputations and individual agendas that may have hurt some squads over the last 10 years or so.
The appointment of Wayne Rooney as England’s captain comes with a lot of pressure, and for a man who is already getting a fair amount of stick for his performances from the media and the fans, it has added a lot of weights on his shoulders. But, being the man Wayne Rooney is, he would certainly thrive on that pressure.
Only time would tell if Rooney has what it takes to lead England out of their international woes.